Press Releases

                                                                            5 July 2004

    Complementary Approaches -- Gender Mainstreaming, Promoting Women’s Empowerment -- Needed to Achieve Gender Equality, ECOSOC Told

    Reviews System-Wide Effort to Mainstream Gender Perspective into UN Policies, Programmes

    NEW YORK, 2 July (UN Headquarters) -- Achieving gender equality required two complementary approaches -- mainstreaming a gender perspective and promoting women’s empowerment -- affirmed participants in today’s discussion before the Economic and Social Council.

    Gender mainstreaming, which required promotion both of gender equality across the United Nations system and implementation of gender perspectives throughout all its operational activities, had been clearly established as a global strategy in the 1995 Beijing Programme of Action, it was recalled.  The Council subsequently took a critical step in translating promise into practice by addressing specific recommendations to all actors within the United Nations system, spelling out the institutional requirements for gender mainstreaming in all policies and programmes.

    Citing the adoption of gender-equality strategies and the establishment of a network of gender focal points within the United Nations specialized agencies as examples of concrete progress in that regard, many speakers nevertheless agreed that, too often, gender issues remained a separate issue, or were incorporated only limitedly, in fields such as health and education.

    Instead, it was suggested, the gender perspective must cut across all operational activities and be integrated into strategies for poverty eradication, macroeconomic development, social protection, agriculture, rural development and peace and security.

    Moreover, stressed Switzerland’s representative, effective implementation of gender mainstreaming required that additional attention be devoted to developing a systemic monitoring and evaluation process, as well as practical tools and methodologies, that contributed to capacity-building and day-to-day monitoring.  Different categories of United Nations staff, particularly senior management, must also commit to ensuring the process.  Most importantly, adequate allocation of resources to support gender mainstreaming was necessary.

    Progress in closing the gap in mainstreaming a gender perspective would determine the level of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, concluded the representative of Indonesia, who urged all to make achievement of the third Goal -- specifically addressing the issue of gender equality and women’s empowerment -- an anchor of the others.

    After all, as the representative of the Netherlands declared, on behalf of the European Union, no society could truly prosper if it left behind the talents of half its population.

    Also participating in the morning discussion were representatives of Bangladesh, Namibia, India, Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, Kenya, Canada (on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand (CANZ)), Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Malaysia and Armenia, as well as representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), and of the non-governmental organization, Association for Democratic Initiatives.

    The report of the Secretary-General on gender mainstreaming was introduced by Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

    During its afternoon session, the Council held a panel discussion with Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); Emmanuel Dierckx de Casterlé, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Coordinator for Morocco; Rosina Wiltshire, UNDP Resident Coordinator for Barbados; and Jyoti Tuladhar, of the Bureau for Gender Equality in the International Labour Organization (ILO).

    The discussion, which focused on the way forward in implementation of gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system’s operational activities, included recommendations for eliminating gender gaps, for conducting effective data collection and disaggregating data by sex, for establishing effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and for making gender mainstreaming the business of all.  In the last regard, several speakers reiterated the important role to be played by the United Nations in the dissemination of information, creation of partnerships and promotion of best practices on gender equality.

    The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 6 July, to continue its consideration of coordination of the policies and activities of the specialized agencies and other bodies of the United Nations system.


    The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this morning was going to take up the second theme of its coordination segment -- mainstreaming of gender issues.

    The Secretary-General’s report before the Council (document E/2004/59) assesses the implementation of ECOSOC’s agreed conclusions 1997/2 on gender mainstreaming at the United Nations and intergovernmental levels.  The document provides an overall analysis of the situation and highlights continuing gaps and challenges that the Council might wish to focus on. The Secretary-General concludes that further initiatives are needed at all levels to increase more visible use of gender mainstreaming as a complement to women-focused strategies. Commitment, support and accountability at the highest levels are required towards that end.

    According to the report, gender equality policies and strategies are largely in place throughout the United Nations system.  However, although attention has been given to many of the institutional requirements, such as specialist gender resources or networks of focal points, capacity-building activities and the development and use of such tools as sex-disaggregated data, serious challenges remain at the institutional level.  These include underdeveloped monitoring mechanisms and reporting requirements; lack of effective accountability mechanisms; inadequate availability and utilization of gender specialist resources; and insufficient capacity to carry out and apply gender analysis.

    Seeking to address those concerns, the Secretary-General provides a number of recommendations directed at various United Nations entities, encouraging them to:  establish and regularly assess gender policy frameworks linked to overall organizational priorities; develop action plans and guidelines for implementation; integrate gender perspectives into sectoral policies; and include gender perspectives in medium-term plans, programme budgets and multi-year funding frameworks.

    Further measures to integrate the gender perspective include their incorporation into work programmes, and in the integrated and coordinated follow-up to major conferences.  Particular attention should be devoted to the review and appraisal process of the Millennium Declaration in 2005.  The Commission on the Status of Women is encouraged to contribute more systematically to the work of other entities, intergovernmental bodies and coordination mechanisms by providing practical guidance on gender mainstreaming.

    Also recommended is increased utilization of gender analysis, incorporation of gender perspectives in all reports, integration of gender mainstreaming into existing monitoring and evaluation processes; dissemination of relevant methodologies and tools; and development of more effective training programmes.  To enhance the effectiveness of gender theme groups, the Secretary-General recommends increasing the level of seniority of their members, establishing clear mandates, developing links to other theme groups and providing adequate resources.

    As far as institutional arrangements are concerned, the report suggests establishment of clear mandates, enhancement of decision-making powers and support from senior management for specialist gender resources, including focal points and theme groups in the field.   It is also necessary to increase awareness of the responsibilities of all staff for gender mainstreaming.  All inter-agency mechanisms are invited to give attention to gender perspectives in their work.


    CAROLYN HANNAN, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presenting the Secretary-General’s report, said gender mainstreaming had been clearly established as a global strategy for promoting gender equality in the Beijing Platform for Action.  The importance of gender mainstreaming was specifically mentioned in relation to all 12 of the critical areas of concern identified in the Platform. The Platform had established that gender analysis should be undertaken on the situation of women, as well as men, in all areas before actions were taken.

    In 1997, the Council had taken a critical step in translating that commitment from the Fourth World Conference on Women into practice, she said.  Most importantly, the Council had addressed specific recommendations to all actors within the United Nations system, spelling out the institutional requirements for gender mainstreaming in all policies and programmes.  The importance of the gender mainstreaming strategy had been reinforced in the Assembly’s twenty-third special session on follow-up to the Platform’s implementation.  Following the establishment of the critical framework for gender mainstreaming in the agreed conclusions 1997/2, the Council continued to play a critical role in promoting gender mainstreaming.

    She said the report provided an overall analysis of gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system and at the intergovernmental level since 1997.  It highlighted achievements, gaps and challenges that the Council might wish to focus on in the review and appraisal of implementation. The report concluded that gender mainstreaming remained a critical strategy for promoting gender equality and empowerment of women. The ECOSOC agreed conclusions remained a valid framework for gender mainstreaming and should continue to guide the United Nations efforts. While significant achievements had been made, much remained to be done before the commitments on gender mainstreaming were fully implemented.

    Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) said that gender equality was not jut an important goal in itself, but also a means to achieving and sustaining development -- indispensable for the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals.  No society could truly prosper if it left the talents of half its population behind.

    With the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, gender mainstreaming had become a globally supported strategy for promoting gender equality and securing the enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls. Other summits had also contributed to that cause. The two complementary approaches to achieving gender equality were mainstreaming gender and promoting women’s empowerment.  Men could play an important role in the realization of gender equality, and specific strategies could be developed in that respect.

    While gender focal points had been established, too often, gender remained a separate subject with an audience of its own, he continued. Key to implementing the agreed conclusions was clear accountability of management at various levels in the United Nations system.  Gender mainstreaming should be a major consideration in assessment of individual performance.  A sound monitoring system was crucial in that respect. Systematic integration of gender dimensions in the formulation and implementation of common country assessment/United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) was essential. Also, the issue of gender-based violence needed to be stressed in peacekeeping.

    The role of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues was not to do all the work on gender mainstreaming, but to make sure the system did its work, he said. The Union considered such a mandate indispensable and looked forward to the early appointment of a new Special Adviser.  The catalytic role of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) as enabler and facilitator needed to be strengthened.  Ultimately, gender concerns needed to be mainstreamed more firmly at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other United Nations bodies.  The Chief Executives Board should be encouraged to take its responsibility in further promoting gender equality through gender mainstreaming in all United Nations policies and programmes.

    Continuing, he also stressed the importance of gender mainstreaming in conference follow-up and emphasized the role of the intergovernmental process.  As the international community embarked on the preparations for the “major event” in 2005, gender mainstreaming should be regarded as one of the leading strategies for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and implementing the results of recent conferences.

    The cross-cutting obligation to eliminate inequalities and promote equality between women and men had been enshrined in the Union’s basic documents.  The Union’s present strategy sought to build synergy among legislation, gender mainstreaming and funding tools.  The efforts in that respect were reflected in the European employment strategy, the social inclusion process, research policy and development cooperation.  An extensive training programme was in place.

    IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) noted that his country had co-sponsored the resolution on gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system during this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, as recognition that this fundamental and universal issue was as much a concern of developing countries as developed.  In regard of the work of ECOSOC, Bangladesh had been actively engaged in the consultation process of the “Draft elements for the Coordination Segment of ECOSOC”, which focused on the process, achievement and advancement of a gender mainstreaming perspective into the policies and programmes of the United Nations system.

    Commitment to gender mainstreaming must be undertaken at the highest levels, he added, to ensure its full and effective implementation.  Gender mainstreaming must be institutionalized and universally applied to all parts and levels of the United Nations system, and gender balance in all categories of posts within the system, with full respect for equitable geographic distribution ensured.  There was also a need to commit resources adequate to the need for institutional development, particularly for developing countries.  Such funding was required for capacity-building and ensuring the sustained development of the process. Mechanisms ensuring accountability through a regular monitoring and evaluation system must be also established.

    Gender issues were increasingly being integrated into all policy areas in Bangladesh, he stressed, and the Government had adopted a National Women’s Development Policy that aimed to ensure equality, empowerment and advancement of women in all spheres of national life.  In addition to the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, each department also had a unit responsible for women in development affairs.  Overall, the country’s economic empowerment had paralleled women’s political empowerment.  Over the past 15 years, each election cycle had produced female heads of government and leaders of opposition, while 13,000 women had been elected to local office in last two elections.

    MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the existence of gender policies in United Nations entities had increased awareness and provided the necessary framework for gender mainstreaming.  Since the adoption of the 1997/2 agreed conclusions, most United Nations entities had developed institutional mechanisms to facilitate effective implementation of gender mainstreaming.  The agreed conclusions, as well as the Platform for Action, also emphasized women and armed conflict.  Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) reaffirmed the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations through that resolution had taken steps to incorporate a gender perspective in its operations.

    Practical implementation of the agreed conclusions remained a challenge, he said.  Although several commissions had adopted specific decisions to mainstream gender perspectives, consideration of gender issues at different levels of ECOSOC had not been level.  The ECOSOC should ensure that gender mainstreaming was adequately incorporated in the outcomes of intergovernmental deliberations.  While each sector had a unique approach, there was a need to harmonize gender mainstreaming activities.  He recommended that future reports provide further elaboration on the issue of gender balance and provide statistics on the number and percentage of women at all levels throughout the United Nations.  He called on the Council to ensure the full realization of the goal of reaching a 50/50 gender distribution in the United Nations system, with full respect for the principle of equitable geographical distribution.

    Addressing the subject of yesterday’s meeting, A. COPINATHAN (India) said that last year, the Council had concluded that rural development should be pursued through an integrated approach and identified a number of priorities in that respect.  The issue had also been addressed in the outcomes of major events, summits and conferences in recent years.  There was, no doubt, considerable potential for contributions by the functional commissions, regular sessions of the General Assembly and specific follow-up processes in that respect.  A broad-based consideration of the follow-up would be beneficial.

    He agreed with the recommendation in the report that all relevant United Nations agencies should further promote integration of rural development into their activities and programmes.  Those agencies should be provided with sufficient resources to pursue integrated rural development.  He wondered whether it would be feasible to design a “coherent capacity-building programme” for rural development, as recommended in the report before the Council.  People themselves as potential beneficiaries needed to be involved in not only identifying their needs, but also in making decisions on how to meet those needs.  Given the specificity of each country, he did not believe it would be possible to arrive at a set of “one size fits all” multilateral norms for rural development.  As for partnership approaches, they could only complement, but not substitute, the commitments made at the government level.

    Turning to the issue of gender mainstreaming, he said that the road map towards the implementation of the Millennium Declaration provided strategies for moving the gender agenda forward, including through greater efforts in the areas of prevention of maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS and education.  India had long recognized that policies and programmes for the empowerment of women must be action-oriented and targeted.  Numerous institutions and mechanisms were in place, and the country had recently enacted laws to prevent sexual harassment in the work place.

    Further efforts were required to ensure full implementation of the agreed conclusions, he said in conclusion.  Linkages should be established between the goal of gender equality and overall goals of the United Nations. There was also a need for gender-specific resources and capacity-building efforts.  Improved gender sensitivity could be achieved by adopting a proactive approach towards achieving gender balance within the United Nations system.  Concrete action was needed to ensure adequate and equitable representation of women, particularly from developing countries, at the higher levels of the Organization’s structure.

    SHIN KAK-SOO (Republic of Korea) welcomed the opportunity to review the implementation of the Council’s agreed conclusions 1997/2.  While much progress had been achieved in terms of raising awareness, generating political will, and establishing institutional arrangements, practical implementation remained a challenge.  The gap between policy and implementation could not be bridged without renewed commitment at all levels of decision making.  Greater systematic integration of gender perspectives was called for in the follow-up to major conferences and summits of the past decade.  Attention must be given to gender elements in all inputs provided by governments, regional commissions and United Nations entities to integrated follow-up.  The Commission on the Status of Women, which was mandated to play a catalytic role in promoting gender mainstreaming, should be encouraged to carry out that role vis-à-vis United Nations entities.  Through closer collaboration, other functional commissions should incorporate the Commission’s guidance in all areas of work.

    He said gender mainstreaming in United Nations peace and security activities should be further strengthened.  He encouraged the Inter-Agency Network on Women to continue promoting the development of tools, especially for monitoring and evaluation, which remained the weakest element in the implementation of gender mainstreaming in many entities.  Gender mainstreaming should be promoted in parallel with measures to empower women in the United Nations system.

    FARAH ADJALOVA (Azerbaijan) said all agreed that the gap between the design and implementation of gender mainstreaming strategies remained a serious challenge for the United Nations system.  Gender perspectives had not always been incorporated into the programme planning and budgets of United Nations entities, and when they had, the implementation process had not always been based on a gender-sensitive approach.

    Gender perspectives must be addressed on a systematic basis and reflected in overall development policies, including those related to poverty eradication and macroeconomic development, she stressed.  It was commendable that the percentage of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) addressing gender inequalities had risen to 33 per cent in 2003.  However, as their effective implementation required adequate resources, in particular in developing countries and countries in transition, the donor community was called upon to increase its allocation of resources for the operational and other activities of the United Nations system.  Without sufficient resources, even the most gender-sensitive policy would face serious constraints of implementation.

    Even where adequate resources had been made available, programme officers and field staff often lacked capacity effectively to mainstream gender perspectives in their daily work, she added.  Support for capacity-building and dissemination of information on best practices and lessons learned was, therefore, crucial.

    BARBARA EKWALL (Switzerland) cited the need to place more emphasis on developing baseline studies, gender-sensitive context analysis and sex-disaggregated data and indicators in developing a systemic monitoring and evaluation process, as the first of four main issues for continued focus in the United Nations system.  Measurable goals, with time frames and indicators, and mechanisms by which to hold staff at all levels accountable for gender mainstreaming, must be established.

    The second area, she added, concerned development of practical tools and methodologies to contribute to capacity-building and day-to-day monitoring for gender mainstreaming, while the third concerned the commitment required from different categories of United Nations staff, particularly senior management, in ensuring the success of gender mainstreaming.  The roles and responsibilities of staff members at all levels must be defined, and institutional arrangements for implementation must be put into place.  Gender focal points must be ensured access to information, decision-making and resources.  Fourth, there must be adequate allocation of resources.  Gender mainstreaming was critical to achieving increased efficiency and impact on the ground and budget cuts must not serve as a reason to give the process less priority.

    Finally, she concluded, the persistent lack of adequate attention to gender mainstreaming in the critical areas of poverty eradication, macroeconomic development, social protection, agriculture, rural development and peace and security was of great concern.  Above all, identifying the gender perspective of poverty and integrating that dimension into poverty reduction strategies was essential to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    GEORGE OLAGO OWUOUR (Kenya) noted that as a large percentage of the population of developing countries lived in rural areas, the eradication of poverty and rural development was a precondition for meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  Adequate resources were needed to invest in physical and social infrastructure, as well as to improve the productive capacity of rural areas.  While agriculture was the primary livelihood for rural areas, that sector continued to be faced by various impediments, including low investments, low and unstable prices and restrictions in the markets of developed countries.  The linkage between urban and rural areas should also be emphasized.

    On the issue of gender mainstreaming, he said Kenya supported the United Nations decision to decentralize operational activities at the field level.  He applauded United Nations country teams for their support to host country governments as they sought to integrate the gender perspective into their policies, legislation and budgets.  There was an urgent need to address the issues of communication, monitoring and accountability between headquarters and field offices by implementing guidelines throughout the United Nations system.  As a lack of capacity-building, resources and accountability delayed the work of gender mainstreaming, concrete actions were needed to implement that process.

    GILBERT LAURIN (Canada), speaking on behalf of New Zealand, Australia and Canada (CANZ), noted that the United Nations strategy approach to gender equality included specific targeted policies, programmes and mechanisms for women and girls, while, at the same time, mainstreaming a gender perspective into all its activities.  However, while the United Nations had made progress, the goal of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policy and programmes of the United Nations system had yet to be achieved.  In addition, the significant gap between policy and practice would not be overcome without sustained commitment at the highest levels of the United Nations system.

    The ECOSOC and its functional commissions had reiterated their focus on gender equality as a goal in itself, as well as a condition for the effective pursuit of other mandates, he recalled, while the Security Council had taken a groundbreaking step in adopting resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security.  All actors were encouraged to work for its full implementation, bringing gender perspectives to bear on all peace negotiations and peace-building initiatives throughout the mandates, policies and programmes of peace operations.

    Finally, he said, the role of men and boys in promoting a gender perspective had been recalled by the Commission on the Status of Women, whose agreed conclusions urged all States to foster the involvement of men and boys in gender-mainstreaming efforts to ensure improved design of policies and programmes.  That focus was especially important in those United Nations bodies and department where the majority of delegates and staff continued to be men, such as the Security Council and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

    YASUSHI TAKASE (Japan) commended the Division for the Advancement of Women, UNIFEM and the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality for their leadership in the efforts to mainstream gender perspectives in all areas of United Nations work.  Challenges still remained, however.  While, in general, there had been greater movement towards gender equality, those perspectives had not yet been adopted system-wide.  The year 2005 would be an occasion to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and review the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  He hoped that focus would be not only on analysis of gender equality perspectives in relation to the achievement of goal 3 on gender equality, but to all the Millennium Development Goals.

    He agreed with the Secretary-General that “systematic attention to gender perspectives in intergovernmental processes provides an important impetus for gender mainstreaming throughout the United Nations system”.  He also shared the Secretary-General’s concern that the area of monitoring and evaluation remained underdeveloped. It was, indeed, one of the weakest elements in the implementation of gender mainstreaming.

    Turning to his country’s national experience, he said that the Gender Equality Bureau was responsible for the planning and coordination of matters related to the promotion of gender equality.  In collaboration with local governments and private organizations, it also endeavoured to foster throughout Japanese society a range of efforts in every sector and at every level to the same end.  Also part of the national machinery was the Council for Gender Equality, composed of 12 cabinet ministers and 12 experts appointed by the Prime Minister.  Since 2001, the Council’s Special Committee on Monitoring and Handling Complaints had been monitoring the implementation of measures by each ministry.

    REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said that while significant progress had been made in mainstreaming a gender perspective since 1997, the gap between policy and practice remained a major constraint in fully implementing the agreed conclusions.  Although efforts to incorporate a gender perspective into existing training programmes had raised awareness, further efforts were needed to influence training in areas such as poverty reduction, macroeconomics and sustainable development.  Progress in closing the gap in mainstreaming a gender perspective would determine the level of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The third goal, which specifically addressed the issue of gender equality and women’s empowerment, must become an anchor of other goals, including that of halving the number of people living on less than $1 a day.

    With the review of the Millennium Development Goals one year away, he said special attention must be given to the elimination of gender disparities in primary and secondary education.  Every effort should be given to addressing the gaps and challenges identified in the Secretary-General’s report.  Better performance by United Nations entities and intergovernmental bodies in mainstreaming the gender perspective would enable Member States to multiply their efforts and facilitate gender equality in primary and secondary education.

    MARI SIMONEN, Director of the Technical Support Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that the Fund had been at the forefront of efforts to mainstream gender into development policies and programmes, especially in the critical areas of sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.  In particular, being aware of the fact that girls were more vulnerable than boys to HIV infection, the UNFPA had a gender perspective at the centre of its HIV/AIDS policy.  One of its key priorities was provision of gender-sensitive information and services for young people.  The Fund had also strengthened linkages between sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS efforts.

    In order to provide practical guidance for its staff, the UNFPA had guidelines on gender mainstreaming and had conducted training in gender budgeting.  The Fund’s new report entitled “Culture Matters” showed that working within cultures and building on the societies’ positive cultural values enabled greater progress in sensitive gender issues, such as female-genital cutting, gender-based violence and reproductive rights. Also essential were partnerships, including those within the United Nations system.  The Fund was involved in several task forces within the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality. Together with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and UNIFEM, it was also releasing a joint report on women and AIDS.

    The UNFPA had also expanded its partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations, an essential task of gender mainstreaming, she said. The UNFPA cooperated with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to document the linkage between poverty and population and highlight the gender dimensions of the problem.  UNFPA’s recent survey showed that countries in all regions had made considerable progress towards promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.  A total of 150 countries had reported measures to protect the rights of girls and women.

    SISSEL EKAAS, Director, Gender and Population Division, Department of Sustainable Development, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said her organization had promoted the advancement of rural women and gender equality in agriculture and rural development for decades and had supported its member States fulfilment of the commitments undertaken at world summits on women and food.  Since 1989, three corporate action plans had been developed for the above purposes, with the first two focused upon increasing women’s participation in agriculture and rural development through projects and programmes that targeted resources, training and other services. The objectives of the current plan included promotion of gender equality in:  access to food and nutrition; natural resources and agricultural support systems; policy and planning processes; and employment. Gender mainstreaming, in particular at the policy level, served as the main strategy, complementing more traditional affirmative action interventions to close gender gaps and level the playing field where necessary.

    The plan sought to realign concepts, approaches and institutional arrangements with the gender and development approach, she said, and to institutionalize the gender equality perspective with the organization’s policies, procedures, programme planning and staff development and training.  It also clearly distinguished between the two distinct challenges of mainstreaming gender in the work of the FAO from the challenge of achieving better gender balance among its staff.

    At the institutional level, the Gender and Population Division served as the corporate focal point for gender mainstreaming, she added, with the dual mandate of support for gender mainstreaming across the organization’s programmes and working directly with member States for the same purpose.  Proud of progress made to date, the FAO, nevertheless, recognized that the organization must sustain the commitment and support of senior and middle-level managers to gender mainstreaming; ensure more equitable division of responsibilities and accountability and more proactive support for the promotion of gender equality; foster an enabling organizational culture for gender mainstreaming; better incorporate the terms of reference of gender focal points and technical units in the work plan of those units and staff; develop adequate qualitative indicators and qualitative appraisal methods; and ensure regular and continuing training for gender2 mainstreaming.

    ADEKUNBI A. SONAIKE (Nigeria), welcoming the review of the implementation of the agreed conclusions, urged the Secretary-General to appoint more women to the Organization’s upper echelon, taking into account equitable geographical distribution.  Nigeria’s Government had long acknowledged the importance and significance of women’s contributions to national development.  Women were recognized as able development partners.  It was encouraging that most United Nations system entities had developed gender equality policies, but the gap between policy and practice remained a major cause of concern.  She, thus, called for a speedy transition from policy to implementation.

    In the review of the agreed conclusions, she said it was important not to overlook the issue of gender balance.  It was equally important to include the goal set out in the agreed conclusions for a 50/50 gender distribution by the year 2000 within the United Nations system, especially at the D-1 level and above.  The principle of geographical distribution was yet to be fully implemented, as there was still a lack of representation of women from developing countries.  Capacity-building would strongly benefit from women’s full participation.  The International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) would be relevant in the development of women, both in the economic and the social sectors. Her Government would count on its assistance in providing training for the advancement of Nigerian women.

    JOHAN L. LOVALD (Norway) recalled that, in his assessment of the implementation of the agreed conclusions since 1997, the Secretary-General had pointed out the need to improve monitoring and reporting and increase accountability.  Appropriate procedures and mechanisms were needed to mainstream gender, but they must be accompanied by the necessary level of accountability.  Each entity of the United Nations system was responsible for ensuring that gender issues were effectively mainstreamed in its work, and all members of staff must assume a share of responsibility in that respect.  Further development of mechanisms to improve accountability should include ways in which senior management could hold staff responsible for gender mainstreaming.  At the same time, there must be accountability of senior management, as well.

    It was much easier to criticize the United Nations system for a lack of progress than to improve your own record, he continued.  Member States must also assume responsibility and take action to implement gender mainstreaming.  In particular, Member States could have a direct impact through participation in the governing bodies of agencies, funds and programmes.  Governments must demand concrete results in pursuit of gender equality and hold United Nations entities accountable for the implementation of related strategies.

    Accountability was also about providing resources to implement policies, he added. Targeted allocations for gender specialists, which were often provided through extrabudgetary funds, were, of course, important, but in the long term, they must be incorporated into the ordinary budgets.  Also, at present, monitoring of gender mainstreaming was often carried out in the form of specific gender assessments, audits and evaluation.  The goal should be the inclusion of a gender perspective in ordinary evaluations and reporting processes.

    MARY SHANTI DAIRIAM (Malaysia) said the success of efforts to mainstream a gender perspective into United Nations policies and programmes was critical, as it had a synergistic effect on promoting the advancement of women at the national level.  Several issues needed to be raised to understand the remaining gap between policy and implementation. Theoretically, bringing women into the mainstream was a political agenda that sought to promote equality between women and men and the sharing of resources and power. Public organizations were under pressure to produce concrete outputs.  It was necessary to integrate equality as an essential component that would, in the long term, contribute to the more concrete goals of an organization.

    She said there was an urgent need for consistency in mainstreaming efforts.  Several interventions had been introduced for women’s advancement, each having its own mandate.  A consistent use of the normative standards of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as a framework for efforts to promote the advancement of women would help to harmonize, unify and consolidate efforts.  As State structures were not monolithic, a common understanding on how gender relations were defined in specific contexts needed to be created.  While mainstreaming required the attention of all ministries and sectors, the international community needed to support institutions to promote such efforts.  At the national level, raising awareness was a prerequisite for mainstreaming.

    Ms. VAN DOUNEN LITTER, of the World Health Organization (WHO), commended the Council for including gender mainstreaming in its agenda for the coordination segment.  The issue was of great importance to public health and a necessary part of the organization’s commitment to health for all.  Increased knowledge about the impact of gender roles and unequal gender relations and on access to health services could contribute to increasing the impact of health interventions for both women and men.  The bulk of WHO’s technical work on gender mainstreaming was carried out by the Department of Gender and Women’s Health. There was also a unit on gender and reproductive rights in the Department of Reproductive Health and Research.  Six WHO regional offices had focal points working on gender and women’s health.

    She said attention to gender was also reflected in the “3 by 5 initiative”, which sought to expand access to anti-retrovirals for people with AIDS.  In addition to selected health issues, the WHO was also seeking to strengthen work on engendering health systems, as that was critical for expanding access and improving quality of health care.  While gender was increasingly reflected in WHO’s policies and programmes, progress had been uneven.  Gender was still often misunderstood as synonymous with “women” or related exclusively to staffing issues.  Therefore, capacity-building had been identified as a priority area of work and easy use of “tools” for health programmes were being developed.  Another priority was the development of mechanisms to ensure a more consistent integration of gender issues into WHO’s work, including those related to monitoring, evaluation and accountability.

    ALLAN JURY, Director of the Division of External Relations of the World Food Programme (WFP), said that –- consistent with its mandate to provide access to food to hungry men, women and children in situation of acute and chronic food insecurity -- the WFP had developed a Gender Policy for the period 2003-2007, based on lessons from implementation of the organization’s Policy Commitment to Women 1996-2001, and on the experiences of partner agencies.  The Gender Policy took into account the important role played by women in household food security and aimed to close gender gaps among food beneficiaries and the organization’s staff in order to contribute more effectively to food security.

    Noting that the value of the Gender Policy lay in its impact on field operations, he explained that the Policy was operationalized and mainstreamed through the implementation of four programme support initiatives:  issuance of guidelines; collection of baseline survey data collection; training at both the regional and country levels; and field-based research to gauge the impact of gender initiatives.

    Because women had traditionally been restricted in their productive roles, the Gender Policy focused on improving their skills, leadership ability and education, he added, and guidelines had been established to assist WFP staff and policy planners, partners and host governments to design and implement programmes conforming to the Gender Policy and the WFP’s Enhanced Commitments to Women.  Among the new features of the Enhanced Commitments were:  enhanced control of food by women in relief food distributions; strengthened emphasis on adolescent girls; food-assisted training activities; increased advocacy on women’s and girls’ role in ensuring household food security; increased female staff at the management level in the WFP; and inclusion of HIV/AIDS issues in WFP operations.

    MARINE DAVTYAN (Armenia) welcomed the increased attention to gender issues at the intergovernmental level and said that, today, it was obvious that gender mainstreaming was not a goal in itself, but was critical for the advancement of sustainable development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  As the international community was approaching the “major event” in 2005, it was also necessary to incorporate the gender perspective into the process of follow-up to the international major conferences and summits.

    The Secretary-General’s report had presented the situation in that regard, identified the main obstacles and made recommendations on gender mainstreaming within the United Nations system, she continued.  She welcomed the establishment of inter-agency coordination, which promoted the integration of a gender perspective within all United Nations policies and programmes.  It was important to ensure further integration of those issues into operational activities of the Organization and their incorporation in the work of all bodies, including the Security Council.  It would be useful, therefore, to strengthen the regular dialogue of the Council with the bureaus of the functional commissions on gender mainstreaming.

    ALBERT MUSLIU, Association for Democratic Initiatives, said his organization, an NGO in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, had developed a cross-border pilot project on the establishment of institutional mechanisms for gender equality at the local level, based on the specific needs of local municipalities in Macedonia and Bulgaria.  The purpose of the project was to establish a public council on gender equality and to create a pilot model of gender equality structures at the local level.  As the lack of disaggregated data had been a problem in the countries in all areas, the project had focused on gathering grass-roots information to illustrate the needs of women.

    On their way to democratization, Macedonia and Bulgaria had started a development process towards gender equality, he said. Practice showed that women’s representation in public institutions and politics was limited. It was important, therefore, that the countries looked at legislation in terms of gender issues. The role of NGOs in fostering women’s participation in political activities should be promoted.  Determined to achieve a modern and democratic society, his organization was raising awareness on the advancement of women at the local level.

    Panel Discussion

    During its afternoon session, the Council held a panel discussion on review and appraisal of gender mainstreaming in United Nations operational activities.

    Introducing the panel’s moderator and four discussants, Council Vice-President YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) briefly reviewed progress made since the adoption of resolution 1997/2 and stressed that gender mainstreaming in the operational activities of the United Nations system had the potential to make a significant and positive impact on the lives of women and men, but only if policies were fully implemented with appropriate follow-up, monitoring and evaluation.  In particular, programme officers and field staff must be given the proper training and resources, and must be held accountable for carrying out the gender mainstreaming mandates of their entities.

    There was much work to be done in that regard, he added, and it was his hope that the panellists participating in today’s discussion would help the Council to examine the challenges before it and explore ways to address them.

    Serving as panel moderator, Ms. HANNAN highlighted several gaps and challenges to be addressed by ECOSOC in its consideration of gender mainstreaming, including the need to follow up the diagnosis of gender-related problems, by applying the outcomes of gender analysis to planning and implementation of activities and to expand activities for gender equality in the areas of economic development, environment and infrastructure.

    Inter-agency collaboration had been important to promotion of gender mainstreaming in United Nations system activities, she noted, with gender theme groups making important, catalytic contributions through advocacy, capacity-building, technical support and community interventions. However, effective gender mainstreaming required that all country-level theme groups incorporated gender perspectives into their work -- full implementation would not be achieved if responsibility was left strictly to gender specialists.

    Other constraints on implementation included lack of capacity to apply the results of gender analysis at the practical level, she said, as well as:  inadequate allocation of resources; lack of mechanisms to ensure monitoring, reporting and accountability; inadequate consultation with women’s groups and networks; and the lack of systematic collection of relevant data on gender equality and its disaggregation by sex.  Identifying ways to increase the systematic reporting of country-level offices to headquarters and ensuring greater dissemination of lessons learned and good practices was needed.

    Panellist NOELEEN HEYZER, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), noted that gender mainstreaming had been accepted as a global strategy at the Beijing Conference and stressed that its effective implementation required adherence to the principle of gender equality, the establishment of mechanisms of accountability and the allocation of adequate resources.  Yet, she added, gender mainstreaming must not be viewed solely as a technical, but also as a political, exercise, which required shifts in thinking, goals, structures and resources allocation.  Effective gender mainstreaming required a general shift in the mainstream agenda.

    Citing UNIFEM’s experience in raising the issue of violence against women as a human rights issue as one of several different cases that could inform ECOSOC’s future work on gender mainstreaming, she recalled that for a long time women’s rights had not been considered a human rights issue.  Yet, in partnership with Member States and civil society, UNIFEM had worked to install women’s rights as a human rights issue on international and national agendas by following up the elaboration of normative concepts with implementation at the operational level.

    Working with its partners, she explained, UNIFEM had succeeded in changing the law of many countries such that, today, more than 45 countries had adopted national action plans addressing violence against women.  Moreover, in 2002, most of the UNDP’s Resident Coordinator reports had referred to the phenomenon of violence against women, and had allocated resources at the country level to combat it, and in 2003, the Commission of the Status of Women had recognized the link between violence against women and HIV/AIDS and trafficking.

    Critically, she added, the catalytic work of the United Nations had received support through a General Assembly Trust Fund, established by Japan in partnership with UNIFEM.  The lesson learned was that it was necessary to bring together political will, to link the normative to the operational aspect, and to allocate sufficient resources for activities.

    In other cases -- peace and security and HIV/AIDS, respectively -- UNIFEM had also worked to raise awareness of the importance of the issue, bringing policy makers into contact with affected women and raising both issues on all agendas.  It had also undertaken, in partnership with a large mutual investment fund, to change the way the fund’s investments affected the working lives of women.  In that process, the norms and standards of United Nations, including its human rights standards, had been mainstreamed in the principles of 650 companies in which the fund had invested.

    The major challenges now confronting the United Nations concerned the highly inaccessible terminology that continued to be employed, as well as the need to relink the gender-policy initiative to activities on the ground by establishing monitoring mechanisms, and to effectively mobilize the constituency for gender mainstreaming.

    EMMANUEL DIERCKX DE CASTERLE, United Nations Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, Morocco, said that while much progress had been made in the situation of women in Morocco, women were still very much held back.  While, in one year, 100 per cent of boys would be enrolled in primary school, girls would have to wait three to four years to reach that goal.  Mainstreaming should address gender disparities not only in terms of practices, but also in terms of major policy orientations.  The objective of mainstreaming was to promote change in terms of legislation, policies and programmes.  Cultural change, however, was the most profound source of change.

    Without institutional change, gender-equality objectives would not be achieved, he said.  Sectoral approaches had proven inefficient. Projects targeting women had not necessarily yielded gender equality.  Equality in treatment did not guarantee equality in term of results.  Instruments for change included gender-sensitive human resources management and budgeting procedures. At the local level, decentralized planning was needed.

    Morocco had undergone a profound reform of its family law, he said.  Quietly and painstakingly, Morocco had, in the last 10 years, moved forward in terms of human rights.  Men and women were now equal before the law.  Moroccan authorities followed gender-sensitive budgeting exercises.  Women more actively participated in politics, government and decision-making positions.  The Ministry of Education had been active in promoting gender equality in its textbooks.

    The most profound change was found in Morocco’s family law or Moudawwana, he said.  In the past, the husband was seen as the family chief and the wife had the privilege of obeying him.  On paper, that was no longer the case.  The marriage age was now 18 years for both girls and boys, and marriage dissolution required mutual consent before a judge.  Upon divorce, children now stayed with the wife.  At age 15, they were free to choose where they wanted to stay.  The wife could remarry without dire consequences.  Changes in the family code had been a watershed in terms of human rights.  Morocco had not been coerced into changing, but had done so willingly.  The United Nations had been very involved with the empowerment of Moroccan civil society, supporting active women’s NGOs.

    ROSINA WILTSHIRE, United Nations Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, Barbados, said the Caribbean had made tremendous strides in terms of gender equality.  It was, however, witnessing reversals that were linked to global trading arrangements, loss of subsidies, increasing poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS.  For small island developing States, what happened locally tended to create an earthquake.  The primary challenges to gender equality included poverty.  Although women were more educated than men, they were among the poorest in the Caribbean.

    Another challenge, she continued, was HIV/AIDS and its rapid spread among women and girls.  Sexual abuse of young girls and boys also added fuel to the problem.

    The third challenge was environmental degradation and related crises, she said.  For small island developing States, shocks reverberated more intensively.  Poverty and dislocation as a result of environmental crisis hit women hardest.  Violence in the home was another challenge.  Violence in the home included the physical abuse of boys, which spilled over into violence, crime and sexual promiscuity.

    Looking to the way forward, she said the Millennium Development Goals provided an excellent tool for monitoring and translating policies into practice.  Monitoring systems had to be ongoing, data strengthened and statistical capacity-enhanced.  In the absence of data, myth tended to replace reality in the formulation of policy, which was extremely dangerous.

    Capacity development was critical, including an emphasis on emotional and spiritual intelligence, she added.  While mental training alone brought some level of capacity, emotional intelligence was critical for transforming behaviours.  Advanced gender-capacity training was needed for people working in poverty, HIV/AIDS and human rights.  More resources were also needed.  Global governance instruments had to be democratic.  Democracy and decentralization at the global and local levels worked wonders.  For it to be credible, the United Nations had to be a model of gender equality.

    The last panellist, JYOTI TULADHAR of the Bureau for Gender Equality, International Labour Organization (ILO), shared with ECOSOC her agency’s experience in launching, in 2001, a series of ground-breaking “gender audits”, which were designed to bring into focus the gender-oriented work of the ILO and assess its impact both at Headquarters and at the field level.  Aimed at increasing gender awareness among all those involved in ILO projects, the audits were also seen as part of monitoring and accountability mechanisms.

    The audit was carried out through self-reflection, team-sharing and learning, she explained.  The audit was not a one-time exercise -- instead, it was a “self-transformative” experience, which had placed gender equality as a cross-cutting objective at the centre of the agency’s work.  Teams had been set up to follow up on its results and findings.

    Part of the exercise was an assessment of activities at national, regional and international levels, as well as global review of key ILO policy documents, major publications, programmes and budget and evaluation processes, she continued. Some priority gender issues within the scope of the organization’s mandate included inequality of rights at work; pay and income inequities; occupational segregation; balancing work and family; trafficking of humans; and sexual harassment and violence at work.

    The audits had provided some good examples of research and technical cooperation projects that included data disaggregated by sex, gender analysis, gender-equality objectives, indicators, conclusions and strategies for the future, she said.  However, it had also indicated several areas that still needed to be addressed, such as the need to:  achieve clarity in concepts and use of terminology; include gender indicators within the global framework; promote an organizational culture to facilitate gender integration; and systematize gender mainstreaming tools and methodologies.

    The audit had been instrumental in experience and knowledge-sharing and in anchoring some of the involvement of national groups in the ILO work on mainstreaming gender in labour and employment issues, she added.  It had also looked into the issue of inter-agency collaboration.  Several ILO members had expressed interest in learning and adopting the new methodology.  In particular, labour organizations of Sri Lanka and Indonesia had requested the ILO to pilot similar programmes in their countries.  The United Nations systems in Zimbabwe and Viet Nam were also planning to replicate the gender audit methodology.

    Turning to the lessons learned from the audits, she said that concrete and constructive developments had followed the findings and recommendations of the first series of gender audits.  Gender equality had been built into the monitoring and evaluation of the ILO’s framework under the budget for 2004-2005.  ILO constituents’ action to increase gender equality was to be monitored through such indicators as ratification of key gender-equality conventions, introduction of positive policies, legislation and institutions; and measurable progress in women’s representation at the decision-making level.  Efforts were under way to build a budget-line specifically allocated to gender mainstreaming, within all technical cooperation projects.

    Interactive Dialogue

    When the floor was opened for comments, participants in several rounds of debate stressed the need to implement focused gender-equality policies, which required serious follow-up, monitoring and evaluation.  Several speakers agreed that, along with strong coordinated action at international level, it was also necessary to promote operational activities to eliminate gender gaps at the country level.  Highlighted in the dialogue were integrated approaches, education, awareness-building and empowerment of women within communities.  It was necessary to send a strong message that there would be zero tolerance of gender-related violence and abuse.

    “How do you make gender mainstreaming everybody’s business?” a speaker asked.  Seeking an answer to that question, several delegates elaborated on the role of the United Nations in the dissemination of information, creation of partnerships and promotion of best practices on gender equality.  In particular, today’s panel discussion could serve as an example of successful practices in that regard.  The Organization also needed to develop tools and methodologies to empower women.

    Realization of what was at stake and the urgency of action was of utmost importance, a panellist said.  Resources would be wasted, unless gender mainstreaming was incorporated within sustainable development policies.  Organizations of the United Nations system that had not addressed the issue before should “come on board” in dealing with such issues as violence against women and providing microcredit, for example.  Governments and civil society should see the United Nations as their partner in promoting gender equality, fighting poverty and achieving development.

    It was also pointed out that successful translation from policy to practice could be achieved through capacity-building, harmonization of efforts, allocation of adequate resources, training of staff and elaboration of successful strategies and tools on the basis of relevant research, data and analysis.  Explored in the debate were the links of UNIFEM with country teams and resident coordinators and the issue of accountability of United Nations personnel.

    One of the biggest challenges was to reflect policy statements and strategies on the ground, a panellist said.  To achieve that, it was necessary to “attribute ownership”, making each participant of the process look at gender issues from a personal perspective.  By introducing guidelines and indicators, the ILO was one of the organizations that had made its constituents interested in achieving gender goals, “making it their business” to promote women to decision-making positions, for example.

    A participant in the debate stressed the importance of balanced gender representation.  He also reminded the Council that several resolutions had been adopted on integration of women’s rights in the United Nations system, including a text related to the need to achieve a 50/50 balance of men and women at the Organization.

    “Hard areas” for gender mainstreaming related to the prevalence of negative gender stereotypes and bias in some societies and the difficulties involved in promoting women to decision-making positions.  Several speakers focused on the need to incorporate men in the efforts to empower women and to build up and diversify women’s skills to advance their position in society.

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